Dubai: Lt. General Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the UAE, on Sunday honoured Indian businessman and philanthropist Firoz Merchant with the “Community Service Medal” at the ministry’s headquarters.
The award and medal was given to Merchant in recognition of his efforts to serve the community in the country and beyond, a press release issued by his office said.
Since 2008, Merchant, founder and chairman of Pure Gold Jewellers, has spent Dh15 million in paying off the debts of 10,940 prisoners languishing in the country’s jails. These prisoners belong to all religions, nationalities and had remained in jail because of their inability to clear debts even after completing their jail terms.
Merchant dedicated the award and medal to his countrymen living in and outside the country. “I am sincerely thankful to the UAE government for acknowledging my efforts. Whatever I have done, and will continue to do, is for the love of the UAE and India. I represent my country India and the UAE is my second home. I will do whatever I can for this beautiful country and its people.”
Merchant said that he is helping those who are the victims of circumstances. “These people [prisoners] are not criminals. They are in jail because they unfortunately accumulated debt and have not been able to clear them,” he stated.
Merchant, 59, began his gold business in 1989. His business is now worth more than Dh3.67 billion ($1 billion) and employs 5,000 people in the Gulf region and India.
The press release quoted Shaikh Saif as saying that he was very happy with the philanthropic work being done by Merchant and would want him to continue his noble work in future too. He also applauded Merchant for his good deeds and said that it makes him feel proud to have expatriates like Merchant in his country who selflessly and tirelessly works for the betterment of the society.
He assured Merchant to extend all necessary cooperation from the government as and when required.
The ceremony was also attended by Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, Lt. General Saif Abdullah Al Shafar, Major General Salam Al Shamshi and many senior police officials.